I was very surprised when I read the news alert “Ryan O’Reilly and Colorado Avalanche agree to 2-year, $12 million dollar deal” on my phone this morning. I was fully prepared to check my phone throughout the day, waiting for the news alert that told me how much O’Reilly would be getting in arbitration and then waiting for the news alert that the Avs were trying to trade him. Instead, I spent the rest of my day celebrating the fact that O’Reilly and the Avs struck an agreement at the last minute and that the agreement is beneficial to both sides.
So what does this new contract mean for Ryan O’Reilly and the Colorado Avalanche?
*O’Reilly is getting paid $12 million over the next two seasons. That’s a $6 million dollar cap hit. He was going to seek $6.75 in arbitration and I think even he knew that he wasn’t going to get that much. He only submitted that number in hopes that the arbitrator would split the difference between his request and the Avs request of $5.5 million. That number? $6 million. While O’Reilly may’ve gotten the dollar amount that he was seeking, the Avs didn’t have to break their “we won’t pay anyone more than Matt Duchene” rule, which means they probably feel pretty good about things.
*Things appear to be smoothed over. The Avs weren’t forced to sign O’Reilly because some other team twisted their arm with an offer sheet and they weren’t forced to sign him because an arbitrator told them that he was owed a certain amount. They signed him because they want him on the team and O’Reilly signed the deal because he wants to be on the team. It would have been nice if they got this done weeks ago, but let’s just be happy that they got it done on their own.
*O’Reilly isn’t going anywhere, at least for now. Obviously, if he hasn’t signed an extension by the 2016 trade deadline, he could be dealt as the Avs will likely look to avoid another Paul Stastny situation, but we’ll worry about that when we get there.
*Now O’Reilly must perform. He’s put a lot of pressure on himself in these contract negotiations by holding out for more money and, in the eyes of many fans, being greedy in negotiations by wanting more than Matt Duchene and Gabriel Landeskog. O’Reilly’s last two seasons were not a fluke. He’s an exceptional two-way player and should continue to improve, but the more money you make, the more you are scrutinized.
*With O’Reilly now under contract, the Avs have about $3 million in cap space to sign restricted free agent Tyson Barrie to a new deal. A 2-year bridge contract worth $3 million per season sounds about right as, even though Barrie appears to be the real deal, I’d like to see a bit more before I start paying him big money, especially following his MCL injury. The problem there is that it would leave the Avs with very little cap flexibility heading into the season. Obviously the solution here would be to trade Ryan Wilson and the final year of his $2.25 million dollar contract, even if it’s for a 7th round draft pick. Jan Hejda is another trade option, although his contract (one year left on his $3.25 million dollar deal) and age (36, compared to Wilson’s 27) make him a less enticing option.
No matter how you look at it, it’s a good day for the Avalanche family.